The application of insulating foams and finish coatings can present serious hazards for workers. These products contain reactive chemicals called isocyanates. Short-term exposure can cause irritation or burns to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Prolonged exposures can cause a much more serious condition known as isocyanate asthma. The vapours released when rolling or spraying can enter a worker’s body through unprotected skin, the mouth, and nose. The air passages, or tubes, that carry air into and out of the lungs are affected. During an asthma attack these tubes narrow, become inflamed, and may be blocked by mucus, restricting the amount of air that flows in and out of the lungs. Workers that become sensitized or allergic to isocyanates can have an asthma attack even if the airborne concentration is very small. This sensitization is permanent and in rare cases these attacks can be fatal. To prevent exposure to isocyanates you must be properly protected. Workers rolling isocyanate-based coatings should wear appropriate chemically resistant gloves, and at least a half-face cartridge respirator. In all cases the work area must be well
ventilated. For more information, contact WorkSafeBC.com.